ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The Alexander County Clerk is reminding women everywhere to get checked for breast cancer.
Now, a breast cancer survivor, she says things could have been different had she been more persistent.
"I kind of blame myself sometimes because I had felt it before and I thought it's probably an inflamed gland you know or something and I kicked myself in the butt, you know that I should have got it checked sooner," Ellen Bigham said. "That's why now I am an advocate for if you feel anything get it checked."
She was hit with her first curve ball in 2011.
"Last part of April, first part of May whenever the big flood hit, and it took my house out," Bigham said.
A series of heavy rainfall events from April 22 to May 2 dropped up to 21 inches of rain in the area and caused widespread river flooding.
The Mississippi River at New Madrid set new record river stages.
Curve ball number two came about two months later.
"We were trying to get all that cleaned up and rebuilt and everything and that's when I found the knot," Bigham said.
Turns out, she had Stage 3 breast cancer that was spreading to her lymph nodes.
She says doctors told her that the cancer had likely been there for years.
"It was devastating," Bigham said. "...A big snowball of still trying to take care of home, take care of our kids and deal with the sickness. It was quite a year."
Over the next few months Bigham underwent a mastectomy, eight chemotherapy treatments, and 30 rounds of radiation.
But the hits didn't stop there.
Almost a year to the day after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Bigham found out she had uterine cancer.
"If I hadn't have had a positive attitude and so much support I don't think I would've made it," Bigham said.
Now, three years later she is a survivor.
"I got my daddies hardheadedness. My daddy was a Cherokee Indian and he was a very tough man."
Her motto: live life one day at a time.
"I've got plans for my life and my future. I've got plans with my kids and it's going to happen. I'm not going to let it whoop me."